In the patriarchal world, the word feminization sounds different. It is free from patriarchy and male domination that is why when we hear feminization, it is sure that there is no male domination. Feminization is a process whereby certain phenomenon or activity is women centered. Feminization agriculture of denotes the process whereby there is increased or dominant role of women in agricultural activities. But there are more pessimistic impacts and results than opportunities when we talk about the feminization of agriculture in Nepal.
Nepalese rural society which was basically based on patriarchal feudal social structure for the last many years; women are still discriminated, from birth to funeral. They are still suffering from violence; wrong tradition and cultural malpractices such as sex selective abortion, wife battering, female infanticide, child marriage, polygamy, rape, sexual violence, trafficking of women & forced prostitution, sexual harassment, dowry, Tilak system, suicide, honor killings and domestic violence. They are still accused of being as Boksi (Witch), Chudel and Dankini (evil), there still exist traditions e.g. Kumari, Jhuma and Devki suffering women.
Women are oppressed and suppressed class and despite various progressive steps ensuring constitutional rights of women, women are still not treated equally in our societies especially in rural areas of Nepal where more than 80% people reside. Traditionally, women played very important role in agriculture and until the last decade almost 70% of the farm related work was carried out by women. It is due to that agriculture is known as informal sector and from plantation of seeds, seeds selection, harvesting, women play the vital role. Now, the role of women is increasing and women are taking almost all the responsibilities of farm works. It is also logical that agriculture in many rural household of Nepal is carried by women solely without men.
Feminization of agriculture is a not a new process. Only the role of women in agriculture was not counted. But now, it is exposed because there are no males to own it as they used to do it in the past. Now it has to be counted because women alone take those responsibilities. And this is not due to that many NGOs grazing on dollar succeed in building their capacities and valuing the role of women. It’s not the reason. It has a different cause even historical.
In Nepal, there is a rapid rural exodus. The data on rural urban migration is not clear but the picture of more than 1500 youths leaving country for foreign employment everyday and concentration of migrants within major cities of country tells the story. In addition, yearly, thousands of other leaves country for further studies. The data shows that out of around 600,000 youths who enter to the labor market every year more than two in three leave their places. Firstly, the young ones, mostly leave the village for urban areas. Other rural and urban youths leave country for foreign employment. In the case of international migration, out of the total migrants, only 10% are females. Therefore, the picture is gloomy, and at least half of the working population is out of country, 90% of them being men.
Thus, how are our villages? Many of the rural areas are without youths. To be more precise, most of the migrants being male, many of the rural households are without males. The females, the children and old age people live in the countryside. Excluding the young women from the migrant family who moves to cities in the name of educating their children and to have luxurious life supplemented by money coming from remittances, the scenario is not the odd case. It’s a common phenomenon. There are many historical and unseen causes besides search of employment and lack of facilities within the country and countryside. But impacts are rampant due to almost 3 million migrant labor being outside country mostly in Malaysia and middle east. Including the seasonal migrant more than this numbers are in India for employment. Altogether the number of people migrating out of country reaches to seven millions including the seasonal migrants to India. That is why there is rural exodus. There is rapid migration. The migrant mostly being males. There are females in villages and female sustaining the agriculture in all cultivated land, there is feminization of agriculture in rural areas.
Therefore, rural households are run by females, children and old aged are cared by females and more importantly farms are managed by females. Besides, reproduction and household chores, females are increasingly engaged in all farm related works without the support of males most of whom are not in the country.
Some scenarios are enthusiastic. There is no more violence from their drunkard and jobless even stupid males. There are no partners for few left males to play cards all day. Women are the head of the families. Women take decisions in household and farm works. They manage the resources. Some of the daring ones started to do the though called masculine works such as ploughing the bullock. Women are somehow free from many of the restriction of patriarchy.
But there is overburden. There is difficulty and there are tensions too. Women who had a traditionally a huge responsibility of all household works and role of rearing and caring the children, increased role has really crushed them. Those oppressed class with lots of cultural malpractices and violence in the society and discriminations everywhere they are added with heavy loads in their back. To make a loan they don’t have collateral. The is no one to give sympathy in sadness and company in their loneliness. There are bad people and evils which are terrorizing the villages in the absence of their traditionally protector. Women, who wanted to work and be self dependent, could not work due to their burden of family works. Many of the technologies are not friendly to women even in farming. The policies and traditions are against them. Green revolution led neo-liberal system has promoted the use of hazardous chemicals and GM foods further impacting women’s health. Let’s think what will happen to a woman who sends his partner to Malaysia for a 20,000/month job taking 2 lakhs loan and the man din’t return. Fertile land in rural area is turning barren if the females are migrated to cities or could not farm it. Production is decreasing. Dependency on external products and food is increasing challenging food and nutrition security and local culture. Remittance is being used in unproductive expenses. Family bonds are breaking. Senior citizens are having a very bad life. The feminization of agriculture has many impacts mostly negative even for women.
Four years back, researching on land right of women in Nepal; feminization of agriculture was found as a new dimension in rural vicinity but now, I think it has become urgent to discuss the issue seriously so that it becomes a priority in various policy discussion as well as planning before it is too late. It has become urgent because there are multifarious impacts of migration and brain drain in regard to rural agriculture especially on women. Women face historical challenges that should be counted both to transform the agriculture as well as empower them in all ways. Otherwise, not only the rural agriculture but also the women will be lagging behind for another few decades and rural environment will be badly impacted by various dimensions of rural exodus. Let’s hope that our planner has some time to think about it to formulate policies focusing peasant women.